December 1999 / By John Ephland

Keith Jarrett
The Melody At Night, With You


ECM 547 949

The album’s title must come from pianist Keith Jarrett’s longstanding love affair with standards. How else to explain the nature of this project? The Melody At Night, With You is Jarrett’s return to form after some serious scrapes with chronic fatigue syndrome (see DB Sept. ’99).

Not surprisingly, the playing on this solo-piano recording is subdued, but does not lack for earnestness, passion or focus. The music is exquisite, unnerving and disarming, as the virtuoso bypasses flourish, instead choosing to speak plainly. (Jarrett’s characteristic vocalizations play no part here.) In fact, The Melody At Night, With You suggests lullaby music, with a starry night overhead (“My Wild Irish Rose”). What keeps everything “indoors” is the voice of the piano itself, having been recorded in Jarrett’s somewhat arid-sounding home studio, leaving the listener feeling somewhat alone.

That sense of aloneness, with hints of melancholy, pervades such songs as the traditional “Shenandoah,” here given a gospel, hymn-like quality, or the album’s highlight, “Blame It In My Youth,” beautifully embellished as it is by Jarrett’s own “Meditation” coda.

Except for Ellington’s “I’ve Got It Bad, And That Ain’t Good” and his “Meditation,” there is no real improvising here, only intimate brushes with melody. Missing are some of those chords that have become trademark Jarrett. Consequently, a plainness and stateliness is heard with some of these recordings. “I Loves You Porgy” and “Something To Remember You By” carry such moments, as Jarrett seems to overwork the material, suggesting a stiffness that need not be there.

Yes, this is Jarrett’s first solo “standards” album. Why he hasn’t recorded one before, having such a tradition of solo-piano recordings, is a mystery. In a sense, this pared-down, iconoclastic approach is classic Jarrett: Simple yet radical, no one “just” plays the music in jazz these days; there “must” always be theme and variation. Not here.

The Melody At Night With You: I Loves You Porgy; I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good; Don’t Ever Leave Me; Someone To Watch Over Me; My Wild Irish Rose; Blame It On My Youth; Meditation; Something To Remember You By; Be My Love; Shenandoah; I’m Through With Love. (55:20)
Personnel: Keith Jarrett, piano.


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